Plus One reviews: the Last Five Years

Hey, it’s new Theatre season at last!  And we have a new review ready to go!  Or rather, Caitlin does, as the Otter is more industrious than me by an order of magnitude these days.  I’d best get cracking with some content and soon, or I’ll be the plus one around here.  Enjoy now as she tackles the latest from Orpheus Musical Theatre!

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The Last Five Years is a modern musical about a romantic relationship – yawn, right? Not so, my friends. This isn’t your typical schlocky song-and-dance show (though don’t get me wrong, I personally love those too!). Instead, it’s a moving exploration of love, commitment, ambition, and expectations told from both partners’ perspectives. It’s the story of two artists – one whose career is on the rise and one who is struggling – and how they navigate their ongoing projects, fortunes, jealousies, frustrations, and successes. This is 90 minutes of pure melodic joy, heartache, and thought-provoking drama that will have you asking what it really means to be a supportive partner.

The show starts with an emotional number sung flawlessly by Michelle Gendron (playing Cathy). My knowledge of The Last Five Years comes from the 2014 movie starring Anna Kendrick in that role and if I closed my eyes, I’d swear I was listening to the soundtrack. From the first note onward, Gendron’s voice is a delight. The next song shifts gears as Louie Rossetti (playing Jamie) rocks out an ode to his new lover. His performance didn’t have quite the energy and volume I wanted, but Rossetti quickly came into his own a few songs in. By the end of the night, I was captivated equally by both actors and felt satisfied, moved, and entertained.

L5Y 1
All LAST FIVE YEARS photos by Maria Vartanova

What’s fascinating about this show is how the characters are retelling their stories perpendicularly. Cathy’s narrative starts with their separation and moves backward in time to when they excitedly met. She’s not sadly reminiscing so much as rewinding though, as each song is a scene told believably and honestly. Meanwhile, Jamie’s story starts with the zest and hope of young love but ends with him facing a crumbling marriage. His emotional arc is thrilling, painful, and realistic. The midpoint is one of two songs where the actors perform a duet, and was gorgeously lit by Don Douglas. I won’t spoil the ending except to say don’t expect a Prince Charming fairy tale here.

There’s a lot that I loved about this show. The set immediately caught my eye and allowed for Douglas to really play with some cool lighting effects that helped distinguish mood, character, and time. The set also gave the actors an effective place to play with props throughout the show, and was just plain gorgeous to look at. Creative, utilitarian, and pretty: that’s a perfect set trifecta, I’d say.

L5Y 2

I also found the staging to be really interesting. Given that the show is basically a series of solo numbers, I was curious to know how it would be directed and I applaud Kodi Cameron’s bold choice of having the other actor present during each number but not reacting directly to it. This may have made the plot a bit more challenging to follow but it made the show much more dynamic and visceral than an endless parade of spotlight moments.

The costumes worked well and the props were fun. The orchestration, though a tad loud at times, was enchanting. Michelle Gendron and Louie Rossetti are equally-matched in terms of talent and had some intriguing chemistry. It seems as though every member of this team has really come together and put a lot of hard work into showing us something fresh and new.

My biggest complaints are that Michelle’s blond wig didn’t feel necessary to me, some numbers lacked a bit of emotional intensity, and I kept expecting the ladder between worlds to mean something deeper. Otherwise, this was a really great night out and I’d encourage anyone who loves beautiful music sung well and coupled with an interesting storyline to check out The Last Five Years. As usual, Orpheus has put together an excellent production that’s not to be missed.

  • THE LAST FIVE YEARS continues at Centrepointe Theatre until the 23rd. Moree info HERE!

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